Latest figures have revealed a record number of people used Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) airports in 2017, as the group reported 1,722,913 journeys during the year.
The 2017 figures show numbers were up 102,577 on 2016’s total of 1,620,336 people who used the company’s airports across Scotland, an increase of 6.3%.
Highlights include a 6.3% increase at Inverness and an 18.9% jump in passenger numbers at the world-renowned Barra Airport which had 14,264 passengers using its beach runway in 2017.
Sumburgh, which serves the Shetlands and the North Sea oil and gas industry, recorded a rise of 13.9% to 386,039 – up 46,948 – continuing the growth it has enjoyed since HIAL refurbished the airport and enhanced facilities for offshore workers.
Orkney’s Kirkwall Airport saw passenger numbers increase by 9.2% to 195,544 from 179,140 in 2016 and Stornoway also saw increased demand with passenger numbers up 4% to 137,103. Tiree, Campbeltown, Benbecula and Islay all reported increases year-on-year.
HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said the performance of the airports was encouraging and demonstrated the growing demand for regional airport services.
Mr Lyon said: “These figures indicate a positive economic outlook for the regions. This illustrates the continuing need for strategic investment across the HIAL operating area. We are working with our colleagues in Transport Scotland to deliver a regional airports network that can grow passenger numbers and has long-term sustainability.
“We continue to see the benefits to passengers of increased connectivity that our airports deliver for the communities they serve.
“We are pleased that the increased numbers at Inverness which has seen strong numbers on the international connecting flights to Amsterdam, Heathrow, Gatwick and Dublin. Sumburgh is performing well on the back of an improving oil and gas industry and our other island airports have also seen encouraging passenger increases.”
Mr Lyon said an anticipated increase in international visitors to Scotland in 2018 could see the strong growth figures continue.
“The UK is very attractive as a destination for visitors benefiting from favourable exchange rates. With the number of connecting flights growing, it means they are better able to arrive in the Highlands and Islands, spend less time travelling and more time enjoying the stunning natural beauty of Scotland and experience the hospitality of the region.”
“HIAL will continue to invest in our airports and we continuously work to improve and enhance the passenger experience for all those who use our facilities.”
Passenger numbers were down 16,029 at Dundee as a result of the withdrawal of the Flybe Amsterdam service by the operator in December 2016. Figures also decreased at Wick by 7,871, due in part to reduced demand from energy sector services to-and-from Aberdeen and offshore platforms.